All photo's are Copyright of Scott Swalling or the tagged Photographer. (Background photo Scott Swalling Photography).

About Me:

24Hr MTBike racer and general bike rider, climber and mountaineer. Good coffee drinker and cake eater (any cake, seriously, don't leave your cake laying around). Also, I like to try new things that challenge me.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Rock Incident at Boulder Ruckle, Swanage

Back on the 10th a good friend of mine Cat and I decided that after a night of catching up and having a good laughed, followed by a morning easing Cat out of her hangover that actually climbing might be a good idea.

So we set off from Toms Field, grab food and coffee in Swanage and headed for Boulder Ruckle (BR). Cat had chosen a route that she was interested in, but as best laid plans are at BR it would be prove to be hard to locate.

We geared up, ab'ed in and set about boulder hopping to find the route. The sun was shining brightly and the sea looked inviting for a swim. Cat located what we believed to be the route and as I was already racked up, I set off.

I pottered my way up to a break under a roof, there was some discussion if this was correct. So I down-climbed the route about 10-15 feet and had a look around the blunt and very blank arete and groove. Whilst I was unsure of the routes direction now, it was apparent that the best way forward was to the break under a huge roof.

I arrived here, fiddled together a belay and then belayed Cat to the stance, she arrived rapidly.

Next Cat would lead a traverse to a groove and the top-out above, sounds simple enough right? Erm, it is Boulder Ruckle.

Cat set off and made short work of the traverse and went out of view. A little while later after paying out some rope, a few pieces of rock went past my stance. I paid out some more, then some more, then took in a bit. Then a larger rock fell to the boulders below, fortunately, no Cat followed.

I paid out some more, took it in again, this got repeated again and another rock smaller went past, but the rope was still slack and Cat above me somewhere. Soon, I would get the familiar 3 tugs on the rope and set off.

Being slightly larger than Cat the cramped traverse was turned into a hand and smear traverse and I arrived at the base of the groove quickly. I then realised why Cat had climbed and then downclimed a few times. Boulder Ruckle is know for its chossy top outs and this was no exception. As I steadily picked my way through the deteriorating rock with a couple of decent run outs, I thought what an ace lead for the terrain.

I soon could see Cat and the belay stake, if you could call it that, but it was sound, just very small. Cat's last bit of gear was well below this and I commented that she had climbed a great lead (although she out climbs me easily I thought it had to be said). We chatted as I moved carefully over the rubble.

I had got to a point on the choss where I was stood on a good sounds slab, a bit of choss and hands on only dirt. I had noticed a what look to be a very lose and large block, it was slightly above me. What happened next shock me up quite a bit at the time.

I was just about to step of the slab, when the lose block moved, I saw this out the corner of my eye. I buried my face in the chossy and dirt and got as flat as I couldpushing my arms above my head. The block slid from a few feet above my head, hit me in the right arm and slid down this and over my shoulder, falling to the boulders below with me screaming "BELOW!!!", it hit and shattered loudly, it was big.

I looked at Cat, she asked "Are you all right?", I was shaken and stirred. It took me about 5-10 minutes to cover the last 3 meters. My ordeal wasn't over, but the scariest bit was. Next I waded through thorns and brambles to the path, getting sliced to bits.

Cat joined me shortly after and we assessed the damage, a few cuts and bruises and a couple of marks on my helmet. Cat mentioned at the time it was luck I had my helmet on. She was entire correct.

We decided to call it a day there, as we had not enjoyed the route, we could not work out which route we had done (not uncommon for BR) and Cat had to pack for a big trip to Canada (see her link to the right).

We said our goodbyes and headed home. When I unpacked my kit I checked my helment again for damage and found a significant cut in the hard surface of my helmet. I pondered this for a moment and realised just how much worse this could have been, without my helmet on.

I don't normally wear my helmet on sports routes or even trad routes, where the rock is known to be very stable, but always do in a new area or a chossy one, and will continue to do so and maybe wear it even more often now.

But guys, when you are out climbing, be sure to know the rock stability of the area before going helmetless and if you are unsure, just wear one. I am very glad I did.

Happy climbing!